Reimagining STEP – The Cluster Approach

Eight kilometers down the sprawling Wipro’s campus on the Sarjapura road, away from the monstrous traffic of Bengaluru is the quiet & quaint, peri-urban locality of Dommasandra. Our quest to identify an education cluster, where Mantra4Change could engage with the Govt. run schools and could prototype a cluster transformation approach, took us to Dommasandra. And we immediately fell in love with it. Though on the periphery of an ever-expanding city, Dommasandra stands unaffected and has retained its essence of a tiny town.

The cluster

A cluster is an educational administrative unit in India and usually consists of a group of 9-15 schools. In the public education system in India, clusters are a decentralized unit of administration, focused on teacher support mechanisms. Geographically, Dommasandra cluster is spread across four Gram Panchayats (GPs) and 11 villages. It has 14 govt. run, Kannada-medium schools with approximately 1000 children till grade 7. As we started exploring, we discovered that out of these 14 schools, there are five lower primary schools (LPS) with one teacher and four LPS with two teachers.

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Preparations for cluster level meeting.

Obviously, the whole concept of school transformation needed to be reimagined when faced with these situations on ground. After all, when a single teacher is handling students from grade 1 to 5, sitting in 2 or 3 different classrooms, what effective teaching-learning practices or school administration does one talk of!

 

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Parents and teachers during a meeting in one of the schools

 

School as a unit of intervention needed a second thought.

The Cluster Approach

From this emerged the idea of a new prototype.

What if, we made the cluster as the unit of intervention..! Rather than seeing the cluster as a group of often very small but individual schools, the collection of schools would be seen as one large and more viable school. The cluster provides an opportunity for schools, particularly the small 1-2 teacher schools, to work together, share resources and collaborate in various ways to offer quality education to kids.

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Mid-day Meal in a school in Domasandra

Inspired by this idea, we started designing our intervention for Dommasandra cluster.

What took us by surprise?

The Cluster Resource Person (CRP) is a motivated young lady who aims to transform Dommasandra into a model cluster of her dreams. She has managed to infuse her enthusiasm in a huge section of her teachers. With the help of the GPs and her teachers, she has already mobilized NGOs to fix 75% of the infrastructural needs in all the 14 schools.

The partnership

Mantra4Change is proud to have met such people in the system who, despite the systemic constraints, have kept their purpose alive and are striving to contribute meaningfully. We are tremendously excited about this partnership.

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Children listening to rhymes in Lower Primary School

Stay tuned for more stories from Dommasandra!

-Written by Ms. Khushboo Awasthi, Co-founder, Mantra4Change

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